Mercedes' Toto Wolff cut a relieved figure in the paddock after Friday practice in Bahrain. While neither of his drivers set the pace in practice, the new W12 seemed much more stable than had been seen in pre-season testing.
Lewis Hamilton was the quickest of the two Mercedes drivers, finishing in third place at the end of the day and 0.2 seconds away from the fastest time set by Max Verstappen's Red Bull.
Less satisfied was Valtteri Bottas, who finished in fifth, and could be heard on team radio saying his car was 'undriveable'.
"It could have been worse," Wolff admitted to Sky Sports.
"After the tests, we thought that we wouldn’t have the car in the sweet spot. Today the drivers were actually quite satisfied."
With Red Bull continuing where they left off in testing by going quickest in both practice sessions, Wolff said they still believe their rivals are slightly quicker.
"It will be a real dogfight against Red Bull over the season. At the moment we can still see them a bit ahead," said the Mercedes boss.
“At least the rear is no longer as nervous as it was. The car is still difficult to understand at the moment. We had to change the aero balance a bit. That bit us in the long run too and it was better for a single lap."
"It's just so very close that every kilogramme in fuel load can make quite a big swing. So we don't really know. I think we are definitely closer here than we have been in testing.
"But I wouldn't know where to put our position versus Red Bull."
When asked about what work the team can do overnight to close in on Red Bull's pace, Wolff said there is a need for further dialling into the track before the crucial qualifying session on Saturday evening.
"I think tyre wise, there's not a lot you can do," Wolff said. "So it's setup work. You can see that the long runs from many competitors, the McLaren's the Red Bulls have been pretty flat. So there was not a lot of degradation.
"And with Valtteri, we've seen that, you know, we lost it a little bit, but we know where to tune."